Visit HMS Belfast to discover what life was like for those who lived and worked on board this last remaining warship of its kind. Nine decks of amazing seafaring history provide plenty of opportunities to explore – plus look out for special events and activities that bring the ship to life. Venture into the Captain’s domain on the Compass Platform, see the shells lying beneath the ship’s waterline, and hear sailors’ stories in the Life at Sea exhibition. You can also find out what far-flung places HMS Belfast visited during her years in active service and learn more about her adventures at sea.
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National Army Museum
Wars and conflict through the ages are a part of bringing up kids, so what better than a trip to theNationalArmyMuseum! Aside from interesting exhibitions from the Zulu War to the present day the real sell for parents (and their kids) is the newly opened Kids’ Zone. They can clamber and swing like regular soldiers on the Arctic and forest-themed climbing frames. There’s even a dedicated soft-play space for babies, plus arts and crafts, dressing-up costumes, books, interactive toys and panels.
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Featuring over 2 million years of human history and culture, theBritishMuseum, located in Holborn, is one of the most fascinating museums in the UK. The building alone is worth the trip, with its stunning glass roof. Free family activities happen throughout the year and there are family trails and free activity backpacks, plus object handling sessions. The excellent website gives you a taster of what you and your kids can expect, for example the ‘Which ancient Egyptian god travelled by boat?’ game.
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Natural History Museum
Situated next door to theScienceMuseuminLondon, the Natural History Museum is a great place to learn about the natural world. There are loads of fascinating, interactive exhibits charting life on Earth, right back to the time of the dinosaurs, all housed in a beautiful building constructed in 1881. If your kids are dinosaur-mad get to the Museum as it opens at 10am and head straight to the dinosaur exhibits – queues build up later in the day, especially to see the life-size, moving, roaring T-Rex!
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The Science Museum was founded in 1857 and today the Museum is world renowned for its historic collections, awe-inspiring galleries and inspirational exhibitions. For kids there’s literally too much to do. If you’ve got toddlers head down to the basement and let them play in The Garden – an interactive gallery full of water, building blocks, sounds, lights and textures. For slightly older kids Launchpad – the Science Museum’s most popular gallery, has 50 hands-on exhibits and shows where they can learn about science. There’s an IMAX cinema, flight simulators, picnic areas and cafés. This is a grand day out for all the family.
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Victoria and Albert Museum
The peace and quiet of the V&A is a surprise, even with the kids in tow. There are lots of hands-on exhibits throughout the museum – just look for the hands-on symbol on the museum map. The majority of these are in the British Galleries and include trying on a corset, building Crystal Palace or making a book plate. There are also a number of family trails to follow. At the weekends you can even borrow a free backpack and follow one of a number of tours, for example imagining you are an Indian Emperor preparing for a spectacular party.
Find out more about the Victoria and Albert Museum
London Transport Museum
Get to grips with all the ways to get round the Capital – both past, present and future. There are lots of hands-on activities aimed at kids both at the Museum and on the Museum’s excellent website. For those under 6 there’s even a special gallery called ‘All aboard!’ where your little perishers can climb aboard fun versions of a bus, train, Tube and taxi. They can take the wheel, becoming a driver for the day, or bump around with the other passengers in the back. They can also explore miniatureLondon, taking control of the transport system, moving buses and trains aroundLondon’s most famous landmarks.
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Imperial War Museum,London
Until 1930 the museum was home to the infamous Bedlam mental asylum (to which Charlie Chaplin’s mother was confined). This domed building is now home to theUK’s largest military museum. FromFlandersto the Gulf, the Imperial War Museum London tells the story of 20th century conflict, complete with smells and sound effects. Exhibits range from tanks and aircraft to personal letters. For kids there are many different workshops throughout the year – for example the Children’s Literature Festival where drama, illustration and readings by famous authors bring the stories to life.
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Chelsea Physic Garden
One of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, it contains a rock garden, the largest fruiting olive tree and the world’s northern-most grapefruit tree. It is also open for scientific research and plant conservation work. Attractions included carnivorous plants, a pond with resident wildlife and Mandrakes – famous for their inclusion in the Harry Potter novels. Regular activities take place for families too, for example ‘Creepy Crawling’ – a session where you can all see a hissing cockroach, giant millipede, corn snake, giant African snail and other creepy crawlies.
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Household Cavalry Museum
The Household Cavalry Museumis a living museum about real people doing a real job in a real place. You can see troopers working with horses in t he original 18th century stables and hear first hand accounts of their rigorous and demanding training. The experience comes alive with compelling personal stories, interactive displays and stunning rare objects – many on public display for the first time. For kids specifically there are craft sessions, detective trails and storytelling.